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Friday December 8th 2017

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Defending Homeschool Liberty

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By Judy Aron

I cannot stress enough the importance of remaining vigilant and working together to change or stop pieces of legislation which are burdensome, onerous, or just plain stupid.  New Hampshire homeschoolers should be congratulated on their stunning victory last week which defeated a legislative attempt to impose more stringent regulations on New Hampshire homeschooling families. The parents in New Hampshire worked long and hard calling and writing their legislators, informing them of the value of homeschooling, and of the value of preserving and protecting the rights of parents. It proves, once again, the power of “we the people” joining forces in defense of liberty.

New Hampshire homeschoolers should be congratulated on their stunning victory last week.

New Hampshire homeschoolers should be congratulated on their stunning victory last week.

The bill, HB368, required a parent who is providing a home education program to include, as part of the notification process, a written statement affirming that the home education program shall contain instruction in certain subjects as defined in law. An amendment was presented that was unbelievably intrusive and burdensome.  According to the New Hampshire Homeschooling Coalition, the minority supporting the amendment complained that:  “Current law requires certain subjects to be taught in a home education program, but there is no specification for how often even core subjects are studied. 2) Current law does not require written notification of the intent to home educate, creating ambiguous situations about truancy. 3) Current law requires the parent to provide yearly results of either the results of one standardized test OR an evaluation of the child’s portfolio, for which there are no standards. (Evaluations are brief; the evaluator need not meet with the child, parents pay the evaluator and can shop for positive evaluations, and parents who are certified or private school teachers can write their own evaluations).”  Legislators supporting this bill and an amendment wanted more oversight, more paperwork and more regulation. Thank goodness they lost, and eventually the entire bill was dumped: The vote was 324-34.

The arguments for this nanny state piece of legislation are not unusual. State Board of Education bureaucrats and administrators  always seem to demand that the State give them authority to look over a homeschool parent’s shoulder and render an opinion as to whether they “are doing their job properly” (as if the government schools are doing such a bang up job of it in their own classrooms). So ultimately they want to broaden their power to include parents of kids who aren’t even enrolled in their government school system! Can you imagine if they included private school parents in their witch hunt?  Or asked private schools to give the State oversight of their curriculum, or adhere to the same regulations they demand of homeschoolers? I think you’d see an outcry.

In this instance in New Hampshire, they complained that, “There is no way to know whether students who choose the test option are keeping portfolios. Administrators do not have sufficient information to determine whether a home education program needs remediation or should continue.” Legislation such as this also leaves ambiguities which no doubt would require further legislation to “clarify.” The bigger problem with this type of legislation is that there is no presumption of innocence. It screams we don’t trust that parents are adequately caring for and educating their own children, therefore we need some legal statement from parents and more regulations for them to follow. Why then would they not also ask for a legal statement that you sign to affirm that you are feeding your children or giving them adequate clothing?  Why not a legal statement affirming that your kids are going to bed at a decent hour or not playing with matches? Do school and State administrators also have so much time (and money) on their hands that they can examine every homeschool family for adherence? I think not.

We’ve had equally distrustful legislators here in Connecticut, who have outright said to us, “How do we know that you are really homeschooling your child?” We’ve replied, “How do we know that a legislator isn’t embezzling money or making counterfeit bills in his basement? Should we have a house to house check? Shall we examine your checkbook?” There are mechanisms already in place in most state statutes to deal with parents that do not take care of their children, no matter how those children are educated. If there is a reasonable articulable suspicion that neglect exists, the proper authorities may seek a warrant based on a probable cause using already established constitutional and statutory procedures. No other legislation is necessary really, and we honestly do not need government examining our school books.

Homeschoolers not enrolled in the government school system should remain autonomous, just as private schools are supposed to be. It is imperative that we have school models that have no interference from the government. That is what true freedom to educate is all about. The fact that homeschoolers are autonomous in their curriculum, and have local control in the truest sense, is what makes them so successful!  Homeschools can tailor their curriculum to specific needs and goals and need no one to look over their shoulder.  Statistics have proven the success of homeschooling time and time again. Perhaps it is the homeschooling community that ought to be telling the State how children ought to be educated.

As for New Hampshire, a major battle was won, but they have one more battle ahead of them. The other bill, HB1580, is currently in committee. The text is here.  This bill establishes that parents have a natural, fundamental right to determine and direct the education of their children. The bill also exempts children who are receiving educational instruction from a parent from the compulsory attendance requirements. A public hearing on that bill will be held Thursday, January 21.  Let’s hope New Hampshire homeschoolers can work with legislators to make their homeschools autonomous and as free as possible from government intrusion.   That said, we ought to all be working to make our State laws regarding homeschooling less restrictive and less burdensome.

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